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Felicia Atkinson x 'Les yeux sans visage'

Edition 2024 Videodroom Concerten
Film & Music
Les yeux sans visage or Eyes Without a Face is a 1960 French horror classic directed by George Franju. Controversial from the moment it premiered, the film pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable by audiences and critics. The combination of poetic black-and-white images, a fairy-tale story and unsourced scenes full of brutality. An infamous surgery scene caused quite the disturbance at the 1960 Edinburgh Film Festival.

About the film
The story revolves around a brilliant, obsessive surgeon, who abducts women and removes their skin to graft upon his own daughter’s disfigured face. Franju deftly balances fantasy and realism, clinical detachment and operatic emotion, beauty and pain, all presided over by Edith Scob’s haunting eyes. Decades of horror films that have followed in its footsteps have necessarily blunted the force of its shock scenes, but nothing can conceal the power of its ugly poetry.

J. Hoberman of The Village Voice declared the film "a masterpiece of poetic horror and tactful, tactile brutality. The Encyclopedia of Horror Films agreed with the claim of Cocteau's influence, stating that "Franju provides the film with a strange poetry in which Cocteau's influence is unmistakable.''

In the 2010s, Time Out polled authors, directors, actors and critics who had worked in the horror genre to vote for their top horror films. Time Out placed Eyes Without a Face at number 34 on the top 100. Pedro Almodóvar drew extensive inspiration for his own 2011 The Skin I Live In.

Before helming Les yeux sans visage, director Georges Franju was already notorious for his short Blood of the Beasts (1949), which combines footage of animal slaughterhouses with shots of children at play—a collage of everyday images, some of them secretive and sickening but all of them true.

With Henri Langlois, Franju founded the Cinémathèque française in 1937, the most enduring and influential institution in French film culture.

''Watching 'Les yeux sans visage' - as a teenager in the 1990s - had quite an impact on me. Not only was it not only a fantastic '80s song by Billy Idol inspired, it really is a great black-and-white horror film about freedom, women's empowerment and image." - Félicia Atkinson

About Félicia Atkinson
For Félicia Atkinson, human voices inhabit an ecology alongside and within many other things that don’t speak, in the conventional sense: landscapes, images, books, memories, ideas. The French electro-acoustic composer and visual artist makes music that animates these other possible voices in conversation with her own, collaging field recording, midi instrumentation, and snippets of essayistic language in both French and English.

Her own voice, always shifting to make space, might whisper from the corner or assume another character’s tone. Atkinson uses composing as a way to process imaginative and creative life, frequently engaging with the work of visual artists, filmmakers, and novelists. Her layered compositions tell stories that alternately stretch and fold time and place, stories in which she is the narrator but not the protagonist.

Atkinson lives on the wild coast of Normandy and has played music since the early 2000s. She has released many records and a novel on Shelter Press, the label and publisher she co-runs with Bartolomé Sanson. She has collaborated with musicians including Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Chris Watson, Christina Vantzou, and Stephen O’Malley, and with ensembles including Eklekto (Geneva) and Neon (Oslo). She has performed at venues and festivals including INA GRM/Maison de la Radio and the Philharmonie (Paris), Issue Project Room (NYC), the Barbican Center (London), Le Guess Who (Utrecht), Atonal (Berlin), Henie Onstad (Oslo), Unsound (Krakow), and Skanu Mesz (Riga). Her work has been commissioned by filmmakers (Ben Rivers, Chivas de Vinck) and fashion houses (Prada, Burberry). She has exhibited in museums, galleries, and biennials including RIBOCA Biennale (Riga), Overgaden (Copenhagen), BOZAR (Brussels), Espace Paul Ricard (Paris), and MUCA ROMA (Mexico City).